We are teachers who would like to talk about our distance teaching experience and good practices while building a virtual garden. We teach sixteen-year-old students from Human Science at Lyceum. We, as teachers, notwithstanding the Coronavirus isolation, have been trying to keep in touch with reality and challenge ourselves and students.
The title “The garden I would like” is about a “Virtual Herbarium” entirely created by students as part of the Nature-Based Solutions Project that the Science science teachers of our school, Costantina Cossu, is contributing to.
From the students’ side, it was an opportunity to look at the environment through different eyes. We are now talking about students who like the beautiful. All students expressed their interest in having a beautiful garden surrounding their school. A place where they could meet, hug, exchange ideas, listen to music, lay down. It would have not only benches but green areas; not gazebos but trees and perfumed flowers.
There they could study their school trees and exchanging tasks. It was very hard to build this idea and project at Coronavirus time. Some of them asked a special permit due to the lockdown condition to visit the school and take photos of the trees in the school garden and the uncultivated parts.
Some others, with their creativity, have used Google maps to visualize and take shots of the school’s current garden. Students used technologies in order to classify the trees through the use of Plantnet APP.
They have many ideas some quite hard to implement in distance education…
Even with challenges, they decide it is possible to be done. They divide themselves into “virtual groups” and decide to name the project “The Garden I Would Like”. They check a Mediterranean Bush herbarium and made up their own minds. They were curious and intrigued by the challenge they were given. Students started to look for all kinds of inspirations such as famous quotes, anecdotes, curiosities on the internet, and/or ask their parents.
Using a shared Google file presentation everyone could see the tree chosen by their mates. Based on that they tried to keep the same style and the same colors.
The best feature of this project is that the class involved two students with special needs which we called special mates. They were responsible to provide a critical perspective: they were the ones who could see the world in a different and even in a more complex way. This system allowed all students to ask themselves “How the two special mates can contribute to their work?” We have found out that the system worked well for both the students with special needs and the other groups. We were available for consultation, support, and clarification in case it was needed. We were also so happy to see their thoughts, critical thinking, and creativity performance through their slides.
We started from the arboreal species analysis already found in the school area. Then we went through the search of typical plants of the Mediterranean area which – are familiar to us and that could fit well in the garden to be built. Using a Google presentation each student (or each pair of students) has chosen a specie and then they have inserted classification, photos, curiosities found on the web, or told by their relatives into the slides.
Creating an herbarium has transformed students from spectators to actors of a change. A change that has favored inclusion because all the students have had the opportunity to take part in the project.
We, as teachers, aim to always be inclusive. We believe our work is only worth if everyone is involved. We hope that our project will come true but right now we must settle for our virtual garden.
Despite the challenges we faced, this project gives voice to all students’ desire to transform their schoolyard into a beautiful, diverse, and inclusive garden. It teaches them about Nature-Based Solutions, it keeps them motivated and boosts creativity.
For more information on the Nature Based Solutions Pilot Project (when it becomes public) follow Scientix social media channels or sign up to the Scientix digest.
Authors: Carmen Sartore & Costantina Cossu
Carmen Sartore is a science and chemistry teacher at the scientific high school. She is particularly devoted to health education. Her interests are the application of science in everyday life.
Costantina Cossu is a Scientix ambassador, she has worked for years in the scientific high school teaching science and chemistry. She is interested in the real and virtual laboratory, robot, AR, VR. At the moment she is part of the special group in Italy EFT (territorial training team) has the function of training and support for schools in the National Plan of digital schools